38. Mr. Lee
asked the Minister of Labour if he will make a statement on his present policy regarding the machinery of wage negotiations.
§ Mr. Iain Macleod
The Government continue to support the policy of leaving wages to be settled by joint negotiation between employers and workers.
Has the right hon. Gentleman noticed that it is now becoming more common for organisations of employers to give a blanket refusal to wage applications before they have even been heard? Is he aware that his function does not permit him to intervene until the full machinery in any industry has been used ; that this may mean that he would be quite powerless to intervene should a really big dispute take place in industry, and the ultimate result might be to weaken the whole machinery of negotiations on Which we pride ourselves?
§ Mr. Macleod
I should think it is implicit that organisations of employers and workpeople can issue what statements they like about wages. The function of the Government, as I see it, is to do what they can to make certain that such decisions as are taken are taken in full knowledge of the economic climate of the country. It is to that end that the decisions of the Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and others have been directed.
Has the right hon. Gentleman noticed the statement issued by the British Employers' Confederation that from now on no wage application which result in increased costs will be considered? Does he not agree that it is calculated to weaken the machinery of negotiation, as trade unions must feel that it is ridiculous to go to negotiate upon an application which has already been refused? Does he not think that that sort of conduct cannot fail to weaken the spirit in which we want British industry to conduct itself, and which allows the right hon. Gentleman to come in at the end of negotiations when necessary?
§ Mr. Macleod
I note the point which the hon. Gentleman has made and I understand it perfectly well. It must follow from my Answer—and this is the accepted policy on both sides of the House—that there is no reason why I should either approve or criticise statements that the two sides of industry issue on wages, and I do neither.